North Korea is hiring on LinkedIn - in a spoof charity campaign

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North Korean paradeImage source, AFP

Always wanted an exotic job in a faraway country, or to explore the unknown and rise to new challenges? We might have just the right thing for you: how about a labour camp in North Korea?

North Korea may be one of the world's most secretive nations, but its leader Kim Jong-un is hiring.

Or so it seems. Accounts under his name on LinkedIn and Twitter have been sending out friend requests and tempting job offers this week.

"Do you enjoy doing charmingly backward manual labour in the age of mechanization?"

Image source, Twitter/@_Kim_Jongun

"Applicants must be able to work 14 hours a day, 7 days a week with one lunch break (rice provided, famine permitting)."

Before you get your hopes up and your suitcase ready: the whole thing is, obviously, a parody.

It is actually a campaign to raise awareness about the conditions and human rights violations in the totalitarian regime, done for the US-based charity Liberty in North Korea, which helps defectors after they flee from the country.

The creative brain behind the campaign, however, is Tomic Lee, an advertising specialist based in Seoul. He heads Part Time Labs, a small team dotted around the globe in South Korea, Europe and the US.

"We had the idea for this project and then pitched it to the NGO in the US. They are a small player and there's only a limited budget. So a social media campaign like this really fits for that situation," Mr Lee told the BBC.

The project consists of a LinkedIn account listing the job offer and a personal account of Kim Jong-un as country's chairman, proudly listing his work experience.

Then there's the Twitter account that plays hand in hand with the job offer.

"We chose LinkedIn because it's the social media platform for job seekers, so it makes perfect sense. Twitter we use because it has so many users that it's easier to have a greater reach," Mr Lee explains.

On Twitter, the campaign targets a number of international celebrities, trying to woo them with special jobs in the Pyongyang administration.

Image source, Twitter/@_Kim_Jongun

But the country needs more than just a strategist. How about Kanye West as the minister of culture and sports? "Let me be your other Kim," the campaign jokes referring to the rapper's wife Kim Kardashian.

Image source, Twitter/@_Kim_Jongun

It's a fun read to scroll down that Twitter page, the job description on LinkedIn or to watch the accompanying video - yet the giggles feel somewhat uncomfortable.

"Due to a series of recent defections, deaths, and disappearances that were in no way suspicious, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is proud to announce a hiring drive available to everyone in the world. Vacancies are opening every day."

Decades of oppression, poverty, famine

Perks of the job include "living in the second-richest country" on the Korean peninsula, "permanent employment until death" with the added bonus of "surprise vacations" at "our world-famous secret prison camps".

The story that inspired these witty lines is a very serious one. North Korea's labour camps are all too real, the famines are real, the terrible toll of oppression, torture and executions is real.

The totalitarian state stands accused of systematic human rights abuses. Decades of rigid state control and mismanagement have led to widespread poverty.

Aid agencies estimate that up to two million people have died since the mid-1990s because of acute food shortages.

According to Amnesty International, hundreds of thousands of people are held in detention facilities, in which it says torture is rampant and execution commonplace.

The country's nuclear ambitions have led to international sanctions, adding to the isolation from the rest of the world. Earlier in September, Pyongyang claimed to have carried out its fifth nuclear test, in continued defiance of UN resolutions.

A new approach

So can you address the serious via the funny?

"A lot of organisations talk about the story in a very serious way - because of course a lot of people die and get tortured. But that means that people get tired of hearing it and they begin to avoid it," said Mr Lee.

Image source, Twitter/@_Kim_Jongun

"So we try to approach it in a slightly different way to get through to people and raise awareness. And humour works really well with North Korea. There's no other country or leader like it."

The goal of the campaign is to raise brand awareness both for the issue in general and for Liberty In North Korea. The LinkedIn page links though to the NGO's website where people can donate money or get involved in fundraising or the work to help integrate North Korean refugees in US or South Korean society.

Seoul says more than 29,000 North Koreans have defected to the South since the end of the Korean War, most of them via China.

And if you need another incentive to apply, the job ad enthuses: "The whole country could collapse tomorrow. Apply today!"